The Russian Invasion: An Updated Look At The Influx Of Russian Netminders In The Metropolitan Division

In recent seasons we’ve seen a tremendous wave of new Russian-born goaltenders begin to make an impact in the Metropolitan Division. NoVa Caps examined this before the 2019-20 season and provided an update prior to the 2020-21 season.

This update discusses the young Russian goaltenders within the Metropolitan Division on a team by team basis, with a section at the end that discusses the new Russian goaltenders outside of the Metropolitan Division.

New York Rangers

Prior to the 2020-21 season, the Rangers saw the emergence of two young Russian goalies, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. With their arrival, the Rangers ultimately bought-out the final year of long-time goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers drafted Igor Shesterkin in the fourth-round (118th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and the young Russian netminder played his first season in North America in the 2019-20 season.

Photo: Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2020-21 season, Shesterkin played in 35 games. He posted a record of 16-14-1, with a save percentage of .916 and a goals against average of 2.62. Although his save percentage during 2021-21 was not as good as the .932 save percentage he posted during the 12 games he played during the 2019-20 season, he appears to have taken over the role of #1 netminder for the Rangers.

The main problem Shesterkin has had during his brief career has been injuries. He missed ten games during March due to a mild groin strain. After returning from his injury, he posted two shutouts in two consecutive games in April. He is reportedly about to sign a long term deal with the Rangers for 5-6 Million per year. [Update: Shesterkin just agreed to a four year contract with the Rangers. Terms not disclosed but Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff reported that it has an average annual value of $5.666 million per year.]

NHL: Shestherkin Playhing Status

Alexandar Georgiev was never drafted, signing as a free agent before the 2017-18 season. He played in several games during the 2018-19 season but the 2019-20 season was his first full season in the NHL.

Photo: Robert Sabo, New York Post

Georgiev played in 19 games during the 2020-21 season. His record was 8-7-2, with a save percentage of .905 and a goals against average of 2.71. It was a rough season for him, a season where he played in just five games after March 19.

There were rumors that Georgiev requested a trade this season, however, he and his agent have said that’s not the case. Other NHL teams have inquired about his availability, but General Manager Chris Drury has reportedly requested a first round pick in exchange for him, which is a greater price than teams wish to pay.

Rangers’ incoming head coach Gerard Gallant talked about the two goalies in a recent interview. “I think we’ve got two really good, young goaltenders. Everything Benoit Allaire told me is that we’ve got top young goaltending, and they can take another step. Benoit Allaire has been there a long time, he knows the goalies better than I do, so I’ll lean on him for that.”

New York Islanders

The Islanders originally drafted Ilya Sorokin in the third-round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft with the 78th overall pick. After a long wait, Sorokin finally signed a contract with the Islanders after the 2019-20 season.

Like all prospects who played the entire 2019-20 season in a foreign league, he was ineligible to play in the 2019-20 NHL playoffs. Thus, he made his NHL debut during the 2020-21 season.

For the season, he played in 22 games, starting 21 games. He posted a record of 13-6-3 with a save percentage of .918 and a goals against average of 2.17. He was part of a goalie tandem with veteran goaltender and fellow Russian, Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov is currently the Islanders number one goaltender.

Sorokin played in seven playoff games, starting five of them and posting a record of 4-1-0. He posted a save percentage of .922 and a goals against average of 2.79. The Islanders  advanced to the third round before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning. The report is that Sorokin and the Islanders are negotiating a contract extension which will be for 5-6 years.

Sorokin NHL Statistics
NY Sports Day: Islanders Finally Have Their White Whale on Ice

Washington Capitals

The Capitals drafted Ilya Samsonov in the first-round (22nd overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He first came over to North America before the 2018-19 season and played that season with the Hershey Bears of the AHL. He was the backup to long time goalie, Braden Holtby, for the 2019-20 season. However, with Holtby’s departure, Samsonov was expected to become the #1 goalie for the Capitals.

Unfortunately he ended up missing games due to Covid. He tested positive on January 19 and was placed in Covid protocol the following day. Even after exiting Covid protocol on February 8, he was not ready to return to NHL action until late February and even needed conditioning stints in Hershey.

At the end of the regular season, Samsonov was scratched from the game of May 3 for disciplinary reasons and returned to the Covid protocol four days later. He did not return until the third game of the playoffs.

Photo: Nick Wass/Associated Press

Samsonov played in 19 games during the 2020-21 season, starting 18. He recorded a 13-4-1 record, with a save percentage of .902 and a goals against average of 2.69. His playoff statistics were three games played, starting them all, three losses, with a save percentage of .899 and a goals against average of 2.99.

Samsonov is currently a restricted free agent but did not file for arbitration. He is expected to battle it out with Vitek Vanecek for the Capitals’ number one goaltending job for the 2021-22 season. [Update: Samsonov just signed a one year contract with the Capitals for $2,000,000 per year.]

NHL:Samsonov NHL Statistics
Capitals’ Ilya Samsonov Does Not File For Salary Arbitration; Red Wings’Jakub Vrana Among 17 Players That Did
Capitals Tender Qualifying Offers To Restricted Free Agents Ilya Samsonov, Lucas Johansen
Ilya Samsonov Is On COVID-19 Protocol List

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Daniil Tarasov in the third-round (86th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He signed an entry level contract with the Blue Jackets prior to the 2019-20 season, but was lent to Assat of the Finnish League for the season.

With no hockey in North America until January, Tarasov was loaned to his prior KHL team, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, to start the 2020-21 season. For Ufa, he played in 16 games and posted a record of 11-3-2 with a save percentage of .925 and a goals against average of 2.07.

Tarasov also played in five games with Ufa’s VHL affiliate, Toros Neftekamsk, where he posted a 3-1-1 record, a save percentage of .909, and a goals against average of 2.16.  He also played in two playoff games.

Photo: NHL.com

Once Salavat Yulaev Ufa was eliminated from the playoffs, he came over to North America in late March as Columbus assigned him to their AHL farm team, the Cleveland Monsters. He played in six games for the Monsters and posted a record of 4-2-0 with a save percentage of .896, and a goals against average of 3.16. The hope is that he could earn occasional call ups to Columbus during the 2021-22 season.

Elite Prospects Profile: Daniil Tarasov
Cleveland Monsters: Blue Jackets Assign Goaltender Daniil Tarasov to Monsters
1st Ohio Battery: Blue Jackets Goalie Prospect Daniel Tarasov Will Join Cleveland Monsters
NHL Blue Jackets Today: Impressive Debut Daniil Tarasov

Philadelphia Flyers

During the 2019-20 season, the Flyers had two Russian prospects, Ivan Fedotov, who was a seventh-round pick (188th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, and Kirill Ustimenko, who was drafted in the third-round (80th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

They added an additional goalie to their stable in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by drafting Alexei Kolosov in the third-round with the 78th pick. While Kolosov is not technically a Russian, he is from Belarus, a former republic of the Soviet Union. Ustimenko has represented Russia in international competition.

During the 2019-20 season, Ustimenko played with both the Reading Royals (the Flyers’ East Coast Hockey League affiliate), and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the team’s AHL affiliate, spending most of his time with Reading. This season, Ustimenko was lent to HK Gomel, a hockey team in the Belarusian Extraleague A. With Gomel, he has played in two games, recording a save percentage of .910, and a goals against average of 2.50.

Despite being drafted in 2015, Fedotov has still not signed a contract with the Flyers. He played in the Traktor Chelyabinsk system from 2018-19 through 2020-21. During the 2020-21 season, he played in 26 games with Traktor and posted a 14-7-3 record, with a save percentage of .925, and a goals against average of 2.21. He played in one game with Chelmet Chelyabinsk and lost. He has signed a contract with CSKA for the 2021-22 season, so the earliest he could possibly come over to North America is for the 2022-23 season.

Alexei Kolosov, the newest goalie among the Flyers’ prospects, played with both Dinamo Minsk in the KHL and Dinamo-Molodechno in the Belarus league. He played 12 games for Dinamo-Molodechno and compiled a save percentage of .910 with a goals against average of 2.23. He played in two playoff games for Dinamo-Molodechno and had a save percentage of .890 and a goals against average of 3.10. He played in nine games for Dinamo Minnk, posting a record of 3-5-1, with a save percentage of .911 and a goals against average of 2.69. He had one shutout. He will likely play with Dinamo Moscow during the 2021-22 season.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes drafted Pyotr Kochetkov in the second-round (36th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed to a two year entry level contract on May 1, 2021. He started the 2020-21 season with Vityaz, playing in four games and posted a record of 0-3, a save percentage of .909 and goals against average of 2.69.

Vityaz sent him to their VHL affiliate in Ryazan where he posted a 1-3-1 record, 2.46 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. He was then traded to Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo where he played in six games and posted a record of 2-2-1, a save percentage of .931, and a goals against average of 2.63. He appeared in two playoff games for Nizhny Novgorod, posting a record of 0-1-0 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

Photo by Alexander ShcherbakTASS via Getty Images

The Canes added one more Russian goalie prospect to their stable of prospects, Yegor Naumov, during the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. They drafted him in Round 7 with the 200th pick overall.

He played the 2020-21 season with MHK Krylia Sovetov Moskva in the MHL (Russian Junior Hockey League). He played in nine games, posted a record of 2-3, a save percentage of .888, and a goals against average of 2.86.

NHL.Com: Hurricanes Sign Pyotr Kochetkov to Entry Level Contract

Additional Upcoming Young Russian Goalies

The Nashville Predators drafted Yaroslav Askarov in the first-round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft with the 11th overall pick. Since the draft, he has played with SKA St. Petersburg and their affiliate SKA-Neva St. Petersburg.

In nine games with SKA St. Petersburg, Askarov posted a record of 5-4-0, with a save percentage of .951, and a goals against average of 1.21. In two games with SKA-Neva St. Petersburg, he posted a record of 0-2, with a save percentage of .900, and goals against average of 2.52.

Askarov represented Team Russia in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships, playing in six games and posting a 3-3 record, a save percentage of .914, and goals against average of 2.50. Russia lost to Canada in the Semi-Final Round and lost in the Bronze Medal game to Finland. He also played in seven playoff games for SKA and posted a 3-4 record, a .927 save percentage, and 2.37 goals against average.

In the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, two more Russian goalies were drafted by teams outside the Metropolitan Division, Arseni Sergeev and Semyon Vyazavoi. Arseni Sergeev, who was drafted by the Flames in Round 7 with Pick #205, played 20 games for the Shreveport Mudbugs and posted a record of 14-4-2 , with a save percentage of .936 and a goals against average of  2.17.  In the playoffs, he was 0-1 with a save percentage of .929 and a goals against average of 2.05.

Semyon Vyazavoi was drafted by Seattle in Round 6 with Pick 163 overall. He played 26 games for Tolpar Ufa in MHL, posted a record of 14-9-1, a save percentage of .939 and a goals against average of  2.06.  He played in two playoff games where he was 0-1 with a save percentage of .837 and a goals against average of  5.04.

By Diane Doyle

Further Reading
The Russian Infusion: An Updated Look At The Influx of Young Russian Goaltenders in the NHL
The Russians Are Coming!: A Look at the Influx of Russian Goaltenders in the Metropolitan Division

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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